If Felix Hernandez stays healthy, heís going to finish the year as a top-5 fantasy pitcher. Heís actually been a little lucky so far, walking too many batters and posting an unsustainable strand rate (.912). Still, few can match his strikeout ability and propensity to induce groundballs. It was a minor mystery how the league hit .281 against him last season, but this yearís .241 BAA is much more indicative of his pitching ability. Remember, he just turned 22 years old, and last yearís disappointing campaign had a lot to do with the .337 BABIP. He doesnít have a ceiling.
Iím beginning to think Adam Wainwright is the real deal. The transition to the starting rotation wasnít smooth at first, but after a rough first half last season, he posted a 2.71 ERA and 1.25 WHIP after the All-Star break. Heís followed that up by pitching even better this season, highlighted by a sparkling 16:3 K:BB ratio. Dave Duncan really does get the most from his pitchers. Wainwright is likely to go down as a bargain in most fantasy leagues.
C.C. Sabathia would have to post a 2.38 ERA over the next 223 innings in order to match last yearís 3.21 mark. Put differently, heíd need to reel off 58 straight scoreless frames to bring his current ERA down to where he ended the last two seasons. Velocity is an important aspect of pitching, but command trumps that by a long shot.
Ryan Church, one of my favorite end-game targets this year, is proving to be an even better value than I expected. The .395 BABIP obviously isnít going to last, but his career mark is .331, and he is still in his prime. His contact rate is the best of his career, and the fact heís guaranteed playing time for the first time ever should help him relax and not press when the first inevitable slump arrives. The Metsí lineup is a great place to hit no matter where in the order, but if he continues to bat second, heís going to be a seriously good fantasy player.
Michael Bourn is on pace for 97 steals so far this season. Heís now been successful on 27 of his past 28 attempts. Heís never hit more than six homers in any year during his professional baseball career, so the two early bombs are mostly a fluke, and heís probably going to be a batting average drain for the most part. That said, all these steals are no fluke, and the increased walk rate is a great sign for the future. Treat him like a top-15 fantasy outfielder right now.
Even with a solid 9-6 record, the Cubs canít be feeling too good about themselves. Alfonso Soriano suffered yet another leg injury, and both Ted Lilly and Rich Hill have looked nothing short of awful. For those in NL-only leagues, Reed Johnson has become a savvy play, and at least Derrek Lee is proving that heís finally over his wrist woes, as he now has 22 homers over his last 319 at-bats.
Itís looking like thereís a zero percent chance he plays in Cincy and about a 20 percent chance Chad Johnson doesnít play football during the 2008 season.
There are 30 teams in Major League baseball, and Iíd have a hard time coming up with half that amount when counting closers Iíd feel even remotely comfortable owning right now.
Conor Jackson, or CoJack, as I like to call him, is fast becoming a superstar before our very eyes. His counting stats are a little misleading because heís missed a few games with fluke injuries and illness, but heís basically averaging a run and an RBI per game, as the cleanup spot has treated him well. While most worry about his power potential, this is someone who hit eight homers over his final 130 at-bats last season and slugged .555 after the All-Star break. Heís continued that trend with a .564 slugging percentage so far this year, also clobbering both of his homers at pitcher-friendly AT&T Park, so the power is definitely developing at an accelerated rate. The 2:7 K:BB ratio is as impressive as Kristen Bell in a bikini.